How do you deal with a crisis you can’t get away from?
If there’s one thing that’s almost impossible to avoid in life, it’s news. Can’t get away from it can you? It just keeps coming at you from every direction.
Every now and then, the news is so shocking that you remember exactly where you were and exactly what you were doing when it reached you. I remember exactly were I was and exactly what I was doing when the news reached me that two planes had brought down the twin towers, killing hundreds of innocent people. I remember exactly where I was and exactly what I was doing the day I heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated.
On a personal level, I remember exactly where I was (sitting in my company car at Brent Knoll services on the M5) when I received the message that the contract had been awarded to someone else. The reason it came as such a shock was that negotiations had been going well. There was no reason to believe I wasn’t going to be successful. The second reason it was such a shock was that the deal was worth £2.4 million pounds to the company I was working for at the time. Imagine having to ring your boss and tell him that you just lost a deal worth £2.4 million. I could, quite literally feel the colour draining from my face. I broke into a cold sweat. I felt physically sick; a horrible “pit of the stomach” nausea. I was shaking as I dialled my boss’s number.
Was I going to be fired? If I lost my job how was I going to find another one? I mean, who would want to hire someone who just lost a deal worth £2.4 million? If I couldn’t get another job, how was I going to keep up the mortgage payments? What if we ended up selling our house? What if we ended up homeless? How was I going to tell my wife and my family?
Some moments in your life are so gut-wrenching that, at the time, it feels as if “everything is all over for you;” that this is a disaster from which you are never going to recover. You are never going to come back from this!
If this is how you’re feeling, right now, because of Covid, I’m here to tell you that I know exactly how that feels. I’ve been there. My heart bleeds for you. And Covid is not a single incident. It just seems to go on and on and on with no end in sight.
I do understand, believe me I do. But knowing that I understand and sympathise is not a lot of help is it?
Right now, you need more than understanding and sympathy. That is not going to help you deal with the situation. I hope that what follows will.
- Realise that nothing, however bad, goes on for ever. Have you noticed how everyone’s mood has changed since the announcement that a vaccine is on the way? Everything gets better eventually. Survival means keeping your head above water until it does.
- Things that seem catastrophic at the time, usually turn out not to be. I didn’t lose my job. I didn’t have to sell my house. My family didn’t end up homeless. Don’t give in to panic over something that turns out to be very survivable, as long as you just refuse to give up hope!
- Having said that, there’s no point in pretending that a crisis isn’t actually a crisis at all. If something looks like a crisis, it’s probably because it is. A crisis is a serious test of your character. A crisis is going to reveal what you’re really made of. It’s going to reveal how you handle a situation that’s really, really tough.
- And this leads me to a point that’s extremely important. When this whole Covid thing is over, one of the things you’re going to be asked, in job interviews, is how you dealt with it when there appeared to be no light at the end of the tunnel. You see, strength of character is one of the most important things employers look for when interviewing job candidates. The way you respond during a period of crisis might not produce an immediate positive outcome and this can be extremely frustrating. But your ability to come through, battered but undefeated, will stand you in very good stead when things begin to pick up…which they will.
- Now to a point which is every bit as important as that last one. Responding positively in a crisis reveals to yourself that you have what it takes, that you are a person who has the courage necessary to emerge from this mess with a smile on your face.
- That is what is going to preserve your self-esteem and you must, at all costs, preserve your self-esteem.
I want to end this session by addressing a paradox.
The tougher a situation, the more important it is to apply the strategies that are going to work for you in the long term. But we have to recognise that the tougher the situation, the more likely it is that those strategies are not going to work out straight away. You have to have the courage to stick with them even when all the evidence suggests that they’re not working.
Let me warn you, there are going to be times when you lose faith in those strategies, lose faith in yourself and feel really quite irritated with me that what I’m sharing appears not to be working at all.
There are some hard times ahead, but we’ll get through this together and I’m with you all the way.
From “The Coach Who Rocks,” Barry Jackson.